Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making Christmas memories

We are beyond thrilled to be preparing for our first Christmas in our new home.  We went out a few weeks ago to a local tree farm to cut down our tree, Kole and I made cinnamon ornaments, the stockings are hung, and the ham is defrosting in the fridge for Christmas Eve.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas lately and I am always amazed at how stressed out people let them get over the holidays.  Did they buy enough presents?  Bake enough cookies?  Make enough plans with family?  To us, Christmas is all about making memories with Kole.

Will he remember whether he got 2 or 20 presents?  Probably not.  But, he will remember waking up on Christmas morning and being excited.  Will he remember if I baked 2 dozen or 10 dozen cookies?  No.  He will just remember that he likes "those cookies with the Hershey kisses on top."  And he will remember baking them with Dan and I.  Will he remember if the house was totally decked out in green and red?  Probably not.  But, he will remember hiking out at the local Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.  He will remember his grandparents visiting.  He will remember meeting Santa at the Farmer's Market.

We want Kole (and the new baby) to learn that Christmas is more than just presents.  It's about spending time together as a family.  We are working on making our own family traditions.  Stress is not a part of that.

I'm looking forward to making more gifts next year.  I've found numerous cute ideas and look forward to working on them.  I've found more knitting projects than I'll have time for.  I personally think that a gift that is made with love and by hand means so much more than one that was purchased at 8 PM on Thanksgiving day on super sale instead of spending time with family.

Perhaps I'm abnormal for feeling like this.  But, this year I feel at peace.  There is no stress.  In fact, we already have Kole's birthday party planned, invitations ready to go in the mail, and presents bought.  We also have gifts for Kole from his baby sister for when she is born.

Just remember....that gaming system will soon be obsolete.  Batteries die.  Toys become a distant memory.  But, the gift of time spent together is not soon forgotten.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Milk glass

I love milk glass.  I had some pieces stacked on my kitchen counter to be put away, but instead decided to throw some silver and teal balls on.  I'm in love!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rain, rain go away....

We have been experiencing rain, heavy at times, for the last 4 days.  We have found with our house that even though we do have a heat pump and woodstove that do a fantastic job of keeping our house warm, the sun is what really takes the cake.  It helps to heat up our basement, which we think is a big factor into the comfort level when the sun is shining.  The forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies tomorrow (I never understood how they made the distinction between party sunny and partly cloudy?!), and SUNSHINE the rest of the week.  The temperatures will be cooler, but the house will feel warmer and brighter :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Monsters, oh my!

So, Kole had a little bit of a breakdown last night.  He has been giving us issues the last few weeks with going to bed.  He tells us bed is "bad", but has never given us a reason why.  Until last night.

He said he didn't want to go to sleep because sleep is bad.  When I questioned him further, he just said sleep was "very bad for you."  I asked him if something scared him in his dreams.  He responded with a resounding "yes!" and proceeded to tell us that he thinks there are monsters in the trees behind our house and they come in to scare him.

So, last night he and Dan took his play gun to scare the monsters away.  We also put his stuffed sheep closer to his window to scare away any monsters that might come in through the night.  And I told him that we would go get curtains for his windows.

This morning I posed a question on Facebook to see if any other moms out there had a similar experience.  One friend told me that she had a family member who struggled with the same thing with her daughter.  She had air freshener that they decorated as "monster spray" and sprayed it at night before bed wherever the daughter thought monsters lived.  Another friend said she actually bought her daughter some spray at Wal-Mart called "Monster Spray."

Soooo....while I thought that was an excellent idea, I didn't like the idea of spraying air freshener every night.  Cue Google!  I figured I could simply put some essential oil and water in a spray bottle and wa-la!  Monster spray.  And that's exactly what we did.  We used lavender essential oil.  I feel that this will not only help Kole feel better about the monsters, but will also add some calming benefit for sleeping :-)

After we made it this afternoon, he went outside to spray it and yell at the monsters.  Here's hoping we have a better night!

Tomorrow I'll share my curtain project!

Monday, November 5, 2012

CSA box


CSA for the first week of November: kale, root spinach, red and yellow bell peppers, bok choy, kohlrabi, fingerling potatoes, carrots, and beans.

Now, what to do with all of this yummy food?  Tonight was salad with spinach, pepper, and carrot!  Off to look for kohrabi recipes....

Sunday, November 4, 2012

First winter market of 2012


One of the things that I adore about the local food movement is the number of Farmers Markets.  We are weekly visitors of the Bridgeport Farmers Market during the summer and I love that they also put on winter markets.  There are a lot of local farmers who utilize greenhouses and hoop houses, so it is not unheard of and quite common, actually, to be able to get salad greens and other root vegetables all the way through the winter.

Today, we were able to get tomatoes and basil, which we used to make sauce for lasagna.  We also got beef stew meat, Italian sausage, lamb stew meat, and picked up our turkey for Thanksgiving.  We got a 20 pound turkey - we are having Dan's family in from Georgia, so we are looking forward to enjoying the bird!

We also got some things for our pantry.  I picked up some bloody butcher cornmeal, Jacob's Cattle beans, and dried shiitake mushrooms.  Liz, from Hawthorne Valley Farms, said that the bloody butcher cornmeal is a bit sweeter than regular yellow cornmeal.  I want to try to make it with some cheese for Kole.  The Jacob's Cattle beans are an heirloom variety and I'm anxious to use them in a baked bean dish.  She gave us a recipe for "apple cider beans", which sounds quite delicious.  And lastly, we got some dried shiitake mushrooms.  They are really good in soup and we enjoyed them last winter with our CSA.  These pantry items make me feel better about going into winter as well!

Tomorrow is our first delivery for our winter CSA - I'll post pictures tomorrow!!  :-)

Friday, November 2, 2012

A little break....

Last Thursday, during a beautiful afternoon, we lost our power and phone/internet.  Ever since the derecho storms over the summer, we periodically lose our power.  It can be quite frustrating at times, especially when it happens on a beautiful sunny day with no wind.  We were fortunate to get our power back later that day, but we were without our phone/internet until Tuesday night.

On Monday morning, we lost power again.  We were fully prepared, at least mentally, to be without power for a few days with Sandy's arrival.  We were not thrilled, however, when the power cut out before it even started raining.  We were incredibly lucky in that the power was restored after lunch.  Dan had come home in the morning because he forgot his laptop at home.  I am so glad he made it home because we needed to light our woodstove.  The first burning of the woodstove can cause some smoke to come off as the paint heats up.  Needless to say, we had to remove Kole's smoke detector from his bedroom for a while because it kept going off.  The detector ten feet from the stove was fine, though!

On Tuesday, Dan was able to work from home as his office was closed to regular, non-emergency employees.  We woke up to about 3 inches of snow, which was quite fun to see!  The woodstove was roaring, Kole and I played, and Dan worked.  They took a brief break in the afternoon to go outside to make snowmen.  Kole really, really enjoyed that.  And we found our phone had returned that evening!  Kole was thrilled as he loves watching Netflix.  I don't like for him to watch it all that much, but it is a real lifesaver when pregnant to help keep a little boy occupied!

My mom and step-dad got hit a lot harder with the storm, receiving roughly a foot of snow.  There were numerous trees down on their road.  They hope to have power restored this weekend, but that's still up in the air.

With the storms this summer and now Sandy, it has really made us realize that a nice addition to our homestead would be a backup generator.  We borrowed my dad's over the summer and we used it for a little while Monday morning, but we hope to be able to get one that we can hook the whole house up to.  We love the woodstove, so we don't have to rely on electricity to heat things up!

It has also deepened our resolve to become as self-sufficient as possible.  We won't have to worry about food during a power outage if we have a stocked pantry with home canned goods, a root cellar with vegetables, a freezer full of homegrown meat, and some dairy animals for milk.  It simply makes sense to us :-)


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Housekeeping

Now that the house is finished, it's time for me to kick it into high gear cleaning and organizing for the holidays and before the baby comes.  One thing that has been bothering me for a while has been our couch.  It is a microfiber sectional and has help up well.  It has gotten quite dirty over the last year from living at the apartment to construction here.  We got the stain guard protection on it when we bought it, but that doesn't totally help for day to day things.  So, to the internet (and Pinterest!) I went.  I found a tutorial on the best way to clean microfiber.

What you need:
rubbing alcohol
spray bottle
white or neutral colored sponge (as not to bleed color to your sofa)

How it's done:
Spray the area you wish to clean with rubbing alcohol.  Yes, it does have a scent, but it is not overpowering.  Using the sponge, scrub the area.  Let dry.  If you wish, you can use a soft bristled brush to soften the cushions.  Mine weren't too bad after drying, so I skipped that step.

I was expecting my sponge to look a lot worse when I was done as I saw some pictures online of people going through three or four sponges and the sponges being completely black.  Perhaps our stain guard helps our more than I thought!

In the evenings, I tend to research online things on my mind.  The last two evenings I have been looking at goat barn ideas.  We have been talking about building a big pole barn to house animals, equipment, etc....but, I am looking into building a smaller barn for just the milk goats initially.  It's fun to dream up ideas for the future!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Foggy fall morning and garlic


One of my favorite things about living here is the view.  It is quite spectacular both in the morning and at night.  When we bought the property, it was identified by the timber company as "Misty Meadows" and as we live here, we can see why.  This picture was taken this morning as I was looking off of our side deck.  This is the west side of the house, so it is also the best side for seeing the sunset.

In the future, we hope for our barn to be to the left of where the composter and raised beds sit.  It is a relatively flat spot and we can utilize some of the hillside for pasture.  That way we don't have to mow it!

This afternoon, Kole and I worked in the raised beds.  Due to time constraints this spring and summer, I chose to do the "square foot gardening" technique and have three smaller raised beds instead of a large garden.  It worked out relatively well, although could have been better had we devoted more time to it.  Pregnancy and a deadline on our house took precedence.  While we do plan to have a large garden(s) next year and hopefully some high or low tunnels in the future, we will still try to use the raised beds.  This fall, we will plant garlic.

I mainly order seeds and plants from Seed Savers Exchange.  I have had great luck with them and I adore their variety.  I ordered three varieties of garlic, which is perfect since we have three beds!  We have two softneck varities and a hardneck variety.  Here are the descriptions:

WHITE SEEDLESS Donated to SSE in 1988 by David Ronniger via Filaree Farm in Okanogan, Washington.  Large white bulbs and cloves.  Softneck, 10-14 cloves.

LORZ ITALIAN Northwest heirloom brought to Washington State's Columbia Basin from Italy by the Lorz family before 1900.  Medium warm with a zesty flavor that is not harsh and lingers on the tongue.  Great for roasting.  Softneck, 12-18 cloves.

CHESNOK RED (aka Shvelisi) Originates from the village of Shvelisi, Republic of Georgia.  Beautiful striped paper with red cloves, easy to peel.  Good lingering taste, retains flavor well when cooked.  Rated as one of the very best for baking or roasting.  Hardneck, 8-10 cloves.

I ordered 2 bulbs of each variety, so theoretically if everything goes well, we could see anywhere from 30 - 42 bulbs of garlic next summer.  We are looking forward to braiding the softnecks.  How pretty will that be hanging in our pantry and root cellar next winter?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

All in our PJs!

Today was a super productive day for Kole and I!  Energy comes and goes, so I try to take advantage of it when I have it.  We started out by doing some Q-tip art.  Kole loved working with glue :-)  He made several pictures and I helped him make a skeleton for Dan to take to his office.
I love the layout of our kitchen - it has a large peninsula where Kole can sit and color or play while I work.  He was really into coloring and playing today, so I was able to can 9 jars of carmel apple butter and roast another pumpkin.  I got 3.5 cups from the pumpkin :-)  Kole picked out all his broken crayons and we made "new" crayons in the oven!  I was going to make pumpkin chocolate cookies, but I'm pooped!
More later...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Books, books, books

I love to read.  In high school and college, it was Patricia Cornwell and forensic type novels.  As I started to think more about what I was eating, I read The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Then I started reading more and more homesteading type books.  Books on keeping a family cow, self sufficiency, bread baking, gardening, and foraging for  wild foods now don our bookshelves.

Last year at the Mother Earth News Fair, Dan and I went to a talk on the home dairy.  The presentation was given by Deborah Niemann of Illinois.  Her family makes a plethora of cheeses, soap, yogurt, and other goodies from their herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats.  It had never crossed our minds to have a small herd of dairy goats - we had always assumed we would have a cow.  This got our mind reeling.  Deborah had just released a new book, Homegrown and Handmade.  It is an excellent resource to get one thinking about making things at home - from gardening and cooking, to having your own home dairy and fiber flock.  As I was reading it last year, the ideas seemed lovely.  But, since we were still in the building process, it was hard to imagine ourselves with a barn, large gardens, and an orchard.  Now that we are mainly done with the house, our (or at least mine) minds are drifting to our garden next year, the coop we plan to build, and where we'll build our barn.



Deborah recently released another new book, Ecothrifty.  The subtitle is "Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life."  I pre-ordered a copy directly from Deborah - she was offering autographed copies and I was incredibly happy to buy directly from the author.  It is an absolutely wonderful book.  And there's a quote from me in there!  I love that she talks about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, and using resuable menstrual pads (which is what I gave my opinion on).  She really shows how easy it is to make the green choice and see that it doesn't have to break the bank!

Deborah has two blogs: www.homegrownandhandmadethebook.com and antiquityoaks.blogspot.com.  The lifestyle that she and her family lead very much inspire us in our journey.

Besides that, what isn't inspiring about seeing this sunset every night?!

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's done!!!

So, when I started this blog, I had every intention of documenting everything about the building process....from foundation to flooring and everything in between.  Well, I never realized just how incredibly stressful and overwhelming the building process can be.  Throw in a surprise pregnancy and things were really interesting.

But, the good news is....we are done!  In terms of the bank, at least.  That was one of the major stressors in our life as of late.  We had a deadline to have all of the major work done.  While we have lived here for 4 months now, it is finally feeling like home.  Our inspector was here last week and confirmed that we are done :-)

Now, we can bring to reality more of our dreams.  Now that the grading is complete, we can get a better feel for where we want our gardens, the kid's play area, barn, chicken coop, and orchard.  Our house will forever be a work in progress, but we are looking forward to it!

Tomorrow - I'll share with you what I've been reading lately :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

On the agenda today....

...cooking down 10 pounds Roma and Amish Paste tomatoes into some sauce to freeze!  We visited the Clarksburg Farmer's Market this morning and came away with the tomatoes, potatoes, and green beans.  Tomorrow is the Bridgeport Farmer's Market where we will be picking up some local apples!

Over the last 2 days, I have harvested about 8 of our heirloom cucumbers.  Not bad for our little plot!  I am searching for some refrigerator pickle recipes to make some quick pickles.  Has anyone ever done this?

We are already getting anxious for next spring and our big garden!  I have been looking into tomato seeds - it makes more sense to buy a $2.50 packet of 25 seeds than to buy a $3 or $4 plant!  Does anyone have an recommendations on good sources for seeds?  I've been very happy with the seeds we got from SSE this year - our cucumbers are doing great and we should be getting some melons soon.

And another good thing - my energy is back!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cha, cha, cha...changes!

Another long break between posts!  This time, I have a different reason!

I have been absolutely exhausted the last few weeks....taking care of the toddler during the day, doing my best to make dinner, and keeping the house somewhat in order has taken it's toll on this PREGNANT lady!

Yes, pregnant.  MAJOR surprise for us!  We found out the same weekend we moved in.  It took almost a year and a surgery for us to get pregnant with Kole, so this is indeed a major surprise as we had no intentions of trying until at least this fall.

I'm getting ready to go into my second trimester, so I'm hoping the nausea subsides and my energy level returns to somewhat normal.  I have been helping where I can around the house with getting things finished, but it's been hard!  I did complete one task that was my responsibility...chalkboard paint on the pantry door!  We have a nice large pantry door and I am a list maker, so it made perfect sense to have a board close by to jot down grocery needs and menu ideas.  I'll post pics soon once it is completely finished and we try it out!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blackberries

Hooray for the first full weekend of summer!  We have been celebrating by enjoying some freshly picked wild blackberries and black raspberries.  And by we, I mean Kole :-)

Hoping to add some more pictures soon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Home

Wow.  Over a month since my last post.  Our lives have changed so much since then.  And all for the better, of course :-)

We worked hard through the month of May to have the house livable by Memorial Day weekend.  From tiling until 3 AM to hanging lights and installing cabinetry, we made it.  I will be preparing some future posts about each room and the decisions we made.

Dan and I also celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, complete with cake.  Kole has started to occasionally sleep through the night.  We moved out of our last ever rental.

Now we live where turkey and deer are our closest neighbors.  We can look out any window in our house and only see green.  The sunsets are amazing, with each night looking like a rainbow in the sky.  I am hoping to improve my photography skills soon so I can capture the pure beauty of it.  We now have the problem of the moonlight shining in our eyes at night and the sunshine beaming brightly in our room in the morning.  But, I know one thing.  These are the kind of problems I will happily have. 

Please stay tuned, our journey is just beginning.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reclaimed wood flooring


I am in love with our flooring.  We absolutely hare carpeting, so we knew we would be putting down hardwood floors.  We weren't terribly happy with off the shelve Lowes or Home Depot flooring, so we did some research.  I ran across an ad for someone local selling reclaimed wood flooring.  The craftsman we are working with goes around the local area and surrounding states to dismantle old barns and homes to relcaim the lumber.  He then remills old beams and other woods into tongue and groove hardwood flooring.  He is somewhat new to flooring, so we are his first customer outside of friends.

We chose to go with a mixture of red and white oak in the bedrooms and a mixture of maple and beech in the great room and kitchen.  The pieces of wood are beautiful - while remilling the wood, he was able to retain nail holes and saw marks.  Some of the wood has quarter saw marks.  It really looks great.  The flooring is almost an inch thick, so it has some serious strength to it.  Speaking of strength - Scott (our wood guy) told us to go to Lowes or Home Depot and count growth rings on their off the shelf hardwood flooring.  He said to then compare it to the wood he has provided.  We counted nine rings on the oak flooring at Home Depot and we counted approximately 36 on the oak that is going in our house.  That is some old growth lumber with serious strength.  

As with paint, we are concerned with VOCs.  The product we are using the cover our floor is called Rubio Monocoat.  It is a European product and has absolutely zero VOCs.  It is a one coat product.  It is unique in that it actually bonds to the raw wood.  If in the future, the floor gets damaged in some way, we can simply sand the spot and put more Monocoat on it.  Since it only bonds to the raw wood, there will be no lap lines and the oil will simply wipe off the wood that already has oil on it.  It sounds like it should be new technology, but it was developed in Europe soon after World War 2.  

We are so excited with how things are coming along!  Three more weeks until we can call it home :-)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Paint!

We have finished drywall!  We were told initially that the drywall would have a textured finish to it, but it is smooth!  We are much happier this way :-)

Paint was something that I tried to do a good bit of research into.  We are really concerned with indoor air quality as our house is very tightly sealed.  I stopped by Sherwin Williams to see what zero VOC paints they offered.  They have a line called "Harmony" which is zero VOC.  It is also $50 a gallon.  Ugh.  Behr offers a line of zero VOC paints as well, but they are a duo of paint + primer, which Dan hates with a passion.  Benjamin Moore also offers a zero VOC paint as well, but it is upwards of $70 a gallon!

In an effort to research appliances and paints, we signed up for a month of Consumer Reports online.  Ranked rather highly in the paint category was Glidden.  I went to Home Depot last week to do some research and the Glidden rep was actually there at the store.  He was incredibly knowledgeable and answered a lot of my questions.  The Glidden paint line, while not zero VOC is a low odor formula.  It really doesn't have an odor and goes on really well.  The rep recommended that we use a drywall primer/sealer since it is fresh drywall.

We did choose Glidden and got the new drywall sealer.  We used 15 gallons of sealer!  It took Dan right around 8 hours total to prime the house, but we did it!  On Sunday, we started to paint the walls and ceilings.  Dan tackled the ceilings, which is quite a feat with our cathedral ceilings in the great room.  Kole and I painted his room, the bathroom, and the laundry room.  We are using two colors, green and a light brown.  Kole's room is of course green!

Sorry my posts are random and rare lately!  We are in a crunch to get things ready to move our of our apartment and into the house in the next month!  And get our garden set up :-)  More later....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Drywall!!

We have drywall!  The crew that 84 Lumber contracts out is nothing short of amazing, really - 2 guys hung all of the drywall in our entire house in ONE day!  Ca-razy!  It was put up Wednesday and the finishing crew was there Thursday morning.  We hope to be ready for paint by this weekend.

Our tractor was delivered Saturday, as well.  Kole and I played around with it mowing some grass.  I love, love, love to mow.  It is so relaxing to me.  It was really nice to mow around where we plan to put our garden beds.  Dan went to work with it trenching for the electric to be run to the house.  It was absolutely a great investment and we can foresee many things it will be really useful for!

We spent the night Saturday.  It was wonderful.  It was SO hard to come back to the apartment last night, but at least now we know we only have a few short weeks until it is home :-)

The foreman

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gardening progress

This weekend we made some progress on our garden!  Since we are using the square foot gardening method, we needed to build some beds.  I bought some 1x8x8 cedar boards at Home Depot and had them cut in half.  I chose cedar because it is weather resistant and it looks pretty :-)

We, or more appropriately Dan, put 2 deck screws in each corner of the bed to connect the pieces together.  The beds are 4x4 feet.  We have three of them!

The spot where we are putting them for this growing season is where we eventually want to put our barn, so we are modifying things slightly so that they can be moved for next year.  We will be putting 3/4" plywood on the bottom of each bed, with drainage holes.  This way we won't lose any of the fertile soil when we move them!  We had initially planned to lay down cardboard to kill off the grass and then put a layer of chicken wire down to deter rodents, but we will go the plywood route so we can conserve as much soil as possible.

The beds will be situated north to south.  This will be easy since our house is oriented to the south!  Tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers will be grown on the north side of the beds so that they don't block the sunshine from the other squares in the garden.  We will be putting together a trellis system to train the tomatoes and other vines to grow on.  More on that when we get there!

This weekend we will be getting our tractor.  I plan to mow underneath where the beds will go and get them set up.  Next week, Kole and I will go to the local greenhouse for our soil mixture as well as some onion sets and get started!  Kole get a set of gardening tools for Easter, so he is set to help Mommy out :-)

Up tomorrow - drywall!

Friday, April 6, 2012

New roof!

This week has been busy and productive!  The roof is on the house!  We wanted to get the roof on before insulation and drywall, which was SUPPOSED to start today.   The insulation isn't yet finished, so drywall will start next week.  We are getting blown in insulation in the walls, as our house will have R30 walls and R50 ceilings.  We hope we will have no problems heating!  The progress pictures are on our camera, so once we get them loaded up on our computer I'll post some!

We also went this week and purchased our tractor.  We are getting a Kubota BX25.  It is a small workhorse of a tractor.  It comes standard with a front end loader and backhoe, which Dan is very excited about.  It will be put to use immediately when it's delivered next week - mowing, trenching some electric, and leveling a spot for our garden.  I can't wait!